A Red Sox-Yankees three-game series in
Fenway Park is always special. But there was something almost
pressing about the one I went to last May.

Janna Hutz
A somber Boston Red Sox clubhouse mourns its Game 7 defeat at the hands of the New York Yankees. (AP PHOTO)
Janna Hutz

My 85-year-old grandfather, J. Lamar Stall, flew up to Boston to
see the series with me. It was the third series we’ve seen in
Fenway together, but after this series – the Yanks won 2-of-3 –
there was a feeling that was never there before. I wondered, when
he got on the plane to go back to his home in Louisiana, whether it
would be the last time I watched the Red Sox with him.

Losing Granddaddy was on my mind because I had just lost my
grandmother last December; I didn’t even want to think about losing
him. Granddaddy and I are as close as a grandfather and a grandson
could be. We’re close because I saw him just about everyday growing
up in Louisiana, and also because we share something so dear: our
love for the Boston Red Sox.

Granddaddy started me off at a young age, buying me a “Future
Red Sox All-Star” shirt that I wore when I was a little tike.

Every time the Sox visited the Texas Rangers, we’d go together
and stay in the team hotel, so I could get autographs from Wade
Boggs, Roger Clemens and all my favorite players. I’ll never forget
the night when I was up late waiting to get Nomar Garciaparra’s
autograph, and Granddaddy came down to the lobby and told me I had
to go to bed. Granny couldn’t sleep knowing I wasn’t in the
room.

Living in Louisiana most of his life, he’s been a diehard Red
Sox fan since the days of Ted Williams. For the past four or five
years, he’s had Direct TV’s baseball package so that he can watch
the Red Sox almost every night. And since Granny died, I think the
Red Sox have become even more of a focus for him.

Granddaddy is the truest baseball man I know, and for that
reason, watching a baseball game with him makes you all the more
wise. But it can also make you as tense as you’ve ever been before.
As the years have gone by and the Sox continue to find ways to
lose, each game has become more urgent for him. With every swing of
the bat, Granddaddy clinches his hands together with a look of,
“This hit could be the one!” The difference between a scowl and a
joyful wag of the tongue is small, to say the least.

He could be the president of Red Sox Nation, and if he could
have it his way, he’d be the team’s manager.

Lord knows he’s seen enough in the past 60-something years not
to duplicate the mistakes of the past.

I’ve heard him tell the story of the World Series debacle of
1986 so many times. In fact, it was so entertaining for friends of
mine that they’d make sure to ask him about it so they could hear
him tell the tale. He remembers every pitch, and he’ll tell you
wholeheartedly that it was relievers Bob Stanley and Calvin
Schiraldi who lost the game for the Sox, not first baseman Bill
Buckner.

Now, after Thursday’s most recent smack in the face from the
Babe, he’ll have some new horrific memories to trudge through. The
Sox lost Game 7 of the ALCS to the Yankees after being ahead 5-2 in
the eighth inning, for those of you who were in Pluto the past few
days. Needless to say, Granddaddy has already fired Sox skipper
Grady Little. He symbolically fired him months ago for his
inability to manage a game, especially his bullpen.

“I don’t know if I can take another season with him as manager,”
Granddaddy said last night. “It’s OK to be dumb. It’s OK to be
hardheaded. But when you’re dumb and hardheaded … “

I feel you, Granddaddy. But I could never feel your pain. You
were born September 19, 1918. The last time the Sox won a World
Series was September 11, 1918. You were eight days too late.

But this year, Granddaddy was present and accounted for. He was
all set to fly up to Boston and pay top-dollar to watch the Sox and
Marlins duke it out. He deserved to be there; he deserved to have
the chance to watch the Sox in the World Series, at least one last
time.

It’s been 17 years since the Sox got to the Series. After coming
this close, we can only wonder how long will it be until they get
there again.

Luckily, we’re not dealing with a disillusioned Sox fan. As
Granddaddy put it, after this many years, he’s just resigned to
losing the game that counts. He admitted his disappointment about
Thursday’s loss, but he’s staying calm. Hey, Granddaddy says it
wasn’t half as bad as ’86.

The past three days, the phone has been ringing off the hook at
122 Richard Ave. in Shreveport, La. Everywhere he goes, people he
doesn’t even know are telling him how sorry they are. But if the
Sox were going to be the end of him, I think they would have done
it a long time ago.

“I’ll live,” he said last night.

I believe you, Granddaddy. Just do me one favor – if they ever
make it to the World Series again, make sure I’m there to share it
with you.

J. Brady McCollough can be reached at
“mailto:bradymcc@umich.edu”>bradymcc@umich.edu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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